Employees use flexibility for a myriad of reasons—dropping their kids off at school, attending doctor’s appointments, going to the gym, avoiding long commutes, etc. Having access to the flex they need helps keep them happy, healthy, and more productive at work. While the reason one needs flexibility shouldn't matter, it seems like many companies—Werk included—are actively adding civic engagement to the growing list of valid reasons to offer flexibility.
Research shows that volunteering doesn’t just make people “feel good,” but it can also help combat anxiety, depression, and other wellness issues. Volunteering is a great way for people to pick up new abilities, to flex their empathy muscles, and to work on their communication skills. And, of course, volunteering does great things for others, the economy, and the world. Some companies are so excited about the benefits of volunteering that they’re actually paying their employees to prioritize civic engagement.
For much of her life, Giveback Homes co-founder Caroline Pinal didn't have the time, funds, or resources to volunteer. But that all changed when she got a job at Toms, the socially conscious shoe company, and was dispatched to distribute shoes to children in need in El Salvador. "I look back on that experience and think how incredible that my job not just encouraged but provided that opportunity to travel and give back to me and every employee?" she says. "And why is that so still rare?"
It may be rare, but more and more big-name companies are offering paid volunteer opportunities. Timberland, for example, created the Path of Service program in 1992 "to give employees paid time to serve their communities and encourage them to become proactive agents of service in and out of the office." Patagonia offers employees a two-month break from their regular roles "to work for the environmental group of their choice while continuing to earn their paycheck and benefits." And Salesforce gives employees access to seven paid days of "volunteer time off"—or "VTO," as they call it.
Of course, it’s important to recognize that not every company can afford to provide these kind of grand scale volunteer opportunities—and that’s OK. When it comes to flexibility, sometimes a small change can go a long way. Think about time-based modifications like TimeShift, for example. With TimeShift, an employee can move their schedule around to take a weekly shift at their local soup kitchen or meet up with a student after school for a mentorship session. With location-based flexibility like DeskPlus, an employee can work a full day from a location closer to their volunteer gig, allowing them to have the best of both worlds. And the same goes with TravelLite, which can give people the freedom they need to become more active participants in their local communities. Time-and location-based flexibility modifications can even help employees get to the polls and vote on Election Day!
Again, the benefits of encouraging employees to use flexibility to give back is a win-win for employers and employees. Employee engagement improves, as workers come back from volunteering experiences "feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and more engaged at work.” Employee retention improves, as flexibility provides a boon to life-work compatibility. And employee productivity can improve, too.
As we continue evolving in the Human Era, this kind of flexibility won’t just be a “nice-to-have"; it will be table stakes for attracting and retaining top talent—yes for millennials, but especially for Generation Z. When we spoke to HubSpot’s Chief People Officer Katie Burke for our new LinkedIn series, “Looking Forward,” she couldn’t stress enough how important this is for the next generation of workers.
“Gen Z wants to do work with a purpose,” Burke told us. “These employees are going to want every organization that they work for to have a commitment to its people, to its culture, to its broader mission of making communities better. And I think that's by and large going to be really good, not just for our workforce but hopefully for our world.”